There is no medical malpractice crisis – except in the scripts of the well funded campaign of the insurance industry to deprive injured victims of their rights. Our system of civil justice rests on the time-honored principle that a person harmed by the carelessness of another is entitled to compensation for the injury. As has been the case for many years, businesses and professionals maintain liability insurance to cover losses caused by their negligence. Liability insurance protects the injured as well as the insured. The system works well most of the time. The large majority of cases are settled fairly. Those that must be tried are submitted to a jury of citizens. While fraudulent insurance cases exist, they are a small fraction of claims, properly dealt with through investigation and prosecution, the same as any other monetary fraud.
Medical malpractice is simply a form of professional negligence. Doctors can and do soothe, heal, and save lives. Under the pressure of managed care, hospital cost-cutting, and the increasingly business-like practice of medicine, doctors also make careless mistakes. When medical mistakes occur, they can be devastating. Doctors and their insurers (primarily their insurers) argue that physicians should receive a pass from the ordinary workings of the civil justice system. They propose ingenious devices, such as caps on damages, to limit the recovery by people injured by medical negligence, regardless of how severe the harm or extreme the carelessness.
The medical insurance industry’s ace-in-the hole is their claim that medical malpractice actions are driving the costs of premiums so high that doctors are being driven out of business. The insurance industry supports this claim with anectodal reports, never an analysis of the facts. The claim is the big lie of the insurance industry’s “tort reform” campaign. Malpractice suits have remained relatively constant in numbers over the last several years and are not a cause of premium increases. Rather, it is the investment strategies and accounting practices of the insurance industry that causes them to cry “poor” whenever the financial markets are in a bearish period. An independent study by the Government Accounting Office (the “GAO”) concluded that medical malpractice suits were not the cause of either rising premiums or any alleged “doctor flight” (see the entire study at: GAO Medical Malpractice Report).
If you or a loved one is ever injured severely by medical malpractice, your only remedy is in our civil justice system. The system belongs to all of us. It is one of America’s great contributions. We should respect it and preserve it.